Why Emberly works

The mind-map-like knowledge tree in Emberly is quite different from traditional tools. Still, it's surprisingly helpful for managing your information. Why?

Why Emberly works

In this article, I will explain the two main benefits that make Emberly stand out from traditional tools — and why this untraditional approach is a great way to manage your information.

Here are the two main benefits:

  • The mind-map visualization saves you cognitive load by taking advantage of your brain's strengths.
  • Keeping your information in one app simplifies your workflow.

If you're interested in the details of why these two benefits help you out, keep on reading.

Benefit 1 - Organize using a knowledge tree

The key difference between Emberly and traditional apps is the way of organizing your things. Instead of nested folders, we use a mind-map style visualization.

But it's not a normal mind-map. This is a map where you can store files, bookmarks, and notes in every node. It's like a tree of folders. We call it a knowledge tree.

Here you can see a typical knowledge tree:

This tree belongs to my co-founder Leif. In this tree, he writes down his insights, lessons learned, and code snippets. And when he finds useful articles, videos, or online tools, he stores a bookmark of them.

Your map = the best map

Maps like this are effortless to navigate when you have created them yourself. Automatically, you synchronize your mental map with your knowledge tree. So if you think my co-founder's map above looks overwhelming, that is not unusual. If this was your own, you'd be able to handle a map ten times the size without breaking a sweat.

There's a guy who has a knowledge tree with 2900 nodes, and he still finds it easy to navigate.

Our brain is strong at spatial navigation

A map like this works so well because it takes advantage of spatial navigation, which our brains are naturally strong at. Spatial navigation is our ability to find one’s way around an environment and remember where things are within it. This is a well-developed part of the brain that has existed long before we ever evolved into humans.

A different way of finding back to digital items is to search for them. Often with help from tags and keywords. This way of retrieving uses a different part of the brain, the linguistic center. And when we are working on complex ideas, the linguistic region of the brain is already at work. When we then try to locate our information using search, we end up competing for memory slots. Resulting in compromising our current train of thought. And thereby risking breaking our flow.

Using spatial navigation on the other hand, as in using the mind-map, has minimal reliance on linguistic processing, leaving the language system available for other tasks.

This is probably why we naturally prefer to organize our digital items in folders, which also utilize spatial navigation. However, folders have a weakness of their own. Since folders hide the folders inside them, you can't get a proper overview of your structure. As a result of this, people tend to only make folders 3 layers deep. Any more, and you start losing track of the structure.

With a knowledge tree, however, you can see everything at once — and each topic has its own spatial location. This enables you to create a much more nuanced breakdown and still maintain a clear overview.

So, when you want to re-find something, you don't have to jump through several layers of folders like in traditional apps. You can zoom in on any node in your map to find your information with a single click.

To summarise, with a knowledge tree, you can take advantage of your brain's natural strengths and preference for spatial navigation. It's just natural.

Benefit 2 - All your information in one place

The second advantage of Emberly is that it helps you bring all your information to one place.

Our workflow for managing our information can be quite complex. We have lots of information we want to keep for later, like websites, documents, and notes. And, often each of these is kept in different locations and apps.

It may look something like this:


As we add more locations, the complexity rises exponentially. We get more places to manage, more places to look.

Eventually, it can become overwhelming to re-find what you stored earlier. And, saving new information can feel like placing it in a black hole. Never to be found again.

However, a knowledge tree can help you streamline your workflow. Since a knowledge tree can bring all of your information to one place, it can replace many, if not all, of the previous storage locations.

It will then look something like this:


You can then use less time managing your information since you don't have to create and maintain multiple breakdowns of folders and notebooks across different apps. And, since you only have to look in one place, you will have an easier time refinding the information you need.

So instead of using different apps for bookmarks, notes, and files, with Emberly, you can have everything together, in one place.

By gathering everything in one app, you don't have to

  • Waste time with context switching and navigation.
    With many apps, it takes time and effort to navigate to the right location in each of them to find what you are looking for. With Emberly you open the topic you want, find all your information, and you are ready to start working.
  • Maintain an organized structure for many apps.
    Figuring out a structure to organize your information takes time. Creating and maintaining a structure for many apps takes even longer.

This way, you use less time and energy on managing your information. And, more time on what's important to you.

That's all I have for now. If you have a different experience of how Emberly helps you out, I'm curious to hear all about it! Emberly, with its knowledge trees, is a relatively new concept, so there is much to be discovered!

Please feel free to send me a mail at gina@ember.ly or contact me on the Emberly discord server.

Have a great day!